The One Thing You Should Never, Ever Do

Danger! The one thing you should never, ever do in email marketing.

There are some things in life that you should avoid doing at all costs: Driving in the oncoming traffic lane, jumping out of a plane without a parachute, keeping up with the Kardashians, and so forth. The same holds true in email marketing, as there is one thing that you should never, ever do:

Don’t buy a list. Ever.

Yes, I have said on many occasions that your email database is your most precious asset as a digital marketer, and growing that list should be a primary goal of your marketing programs. That being said, the way to grow your list is organically, not artificially (and the key to growing your list organically is to make it as easy as possible, across every channel you can think of, for someone to give you their address – download our MiniGuide, 15 Ways True Citrus Markets Smarter, for tips).

Buying a list can have disastrous ramifications for you as a marketer. No matter how targeted you think it is (contact is at X level, company is in Y vertical), no matter how many promises you get that the information is clean and accurate, you’re still lacking the most essential part of possessing an address: The recipient having proactively said, “Yes, I want to receive your communications.”

Potential side-effects of buying a list and sending to it may include, but are not limited to:

  • High bounce rates due to sending to inaccurate contacts
  • Possibly sending mail to spam traps
  • Blacklisting of your IP
  • High spam / complaint rates
  • Severe damage to your sender reputation
  • Getting “fired” by your email service provider due to the damage you’re causing to their IP reputation (as well as violating their terms of service)

Long story short, if you purchase a list and send to it, you have essentially calculated the odds of success against the odds you are doing something incredibly misguided … and you went ahead, anyway. If you think about it, sending to a purchased list is actually counteractive to the intent of your email program – by damaging your sender reputation and harming your ability to get your emails delivered to your actual opted-in user base, you’re actually reducing the reach of your program, as opposed to extending it.

Now, there is a corollary to this, and I’m often asked about it during webinars and conference presentations: What about list rental? And the answer is that list rental, when done through a reputable partner, is perfectly fine.

List rental is when you work with a communication partner (a publishing / promotion company, for example), and they send your content to their own list through their own email service provider. So, for example, if you are promoting an eBook, you would give the promotional content to your partner, they would send an email to their audience, and you would only capture leads that click through the email to your website or landing page and register. This is a tested and effective marketing tactic, and very different from list purchases.

In any event, the key to digital marketing success is simple: Send smart, personalized, valuable communications to people who have asked to get them. But every time a purchased list is sent to, an IP address’ reputation dies.

Please, think of the IP addresses.

Tim Brechlin
Inbound Marketing Manager, WhatCounts


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